You are Not Alone Tonight

With a sigh of relief, I whispered, “Thank you, for choosing to live.” I looked at the word document on my computer screen and felt a renewed sense of God’s presence. I sat in awe of God’s unconditional love for me.

Repost: I posted this blog nearly 3 years ago, but the last few weeks reminded me of the significance of the decision I made to live 46 years ago. Suicide is epidemic across the globe and reflects the hopelessness felt by so many. I wanted to share this part of my journey again today with the hope that it will help someone choose to live.

With a sigh of relief, I whispered, “Thank you, for choosing to live.” I looked at the word document on my computer screen and felt a renewed sense of God’s presence. I sat in awe of God’s unconditional love for me. I had forgotten the significance of divine intervention in my life. I realized that after years of healing, studying and recounting the details of my journey, I was spiritually complacent. The complacency crept in while I moved on with my life.  I spent years sorting through memories and putting together the enormous puzzle of my life. I created a program that blended faith and reason to navigate the psychological and spiritual aspects of healing, but tonight I rediscovered God’s touch.

I felt the power of His presence in my life that I have not experienced in a long time.

Tonight, as I completed the chapter in my memoir about one of the darkest, yet most significant moments in my adult life, I decided to write a letter to the young woman who decided to live. At age 22, I believed that God hated me because I couldn’t stop acting out sexually. The chapter details the events of that night, but my experience after recounting them is the subject of this post. I think I finally understand my 22-year-old self and the significance of God’s intervention. I wanted to thank my younger self for the choice she made after God stepped in.

I still had a choice even after my pastor prayed over me.

Perhaps, you have faced despair and considered taking your life or you know someone who faces that choice. I share the letter I wrote to my younger self in this post to share the new insight I gained from traveling back to the night I chose life. God did not beat me over the head with a burning bush experience, instead, he sent a messenger in the form of my pastor. My pastor did not know I was on the verge of suicide and I never told him. His purpose that night was to give me hope. I think sometimes a simple message of “I am here. You are not alone, tonight,” might be the key to saving a life.

I am thankful that my pastor listened to the prompting to call me that night.

The letter below reflects what I want to tell my 22-year-old self as I close another painful chapter in my life with renewed hope and faith in the power of divine intervention.

You are Not Alone Tonight, Charlie

Hello Beautiful,

You are beautiful, Charlie. You are more beautiful than you realize. Tonight, I agonized with you and felt the despair and hopelessness of a young woman who desperately searched for love. I cried with you as you pleaded with God to set you free. My heart broke tonight when you lost all hope and wanted to end your life. You don’t understand yet why God intervened tonight, but you will. You don’t know for sure that the love you feel from God right now will last, but you will. You wonder if you will ever be free from the torment of the emptiness in your soul, but you will.

You felt beautiful tonight for the first time in a long time. You felt God’s touch, and you remembered it from when you were a little girl. Although you don’t remember the details of the times Jesus held you in His arms, tonight you remembered how safe you felt. Those feelings are real memories. One day you will know all the times Jesus kept you from losing your soul. You are not evil. You are beautiful.

Tonight, I want you to rest and know that all is not lost. Tomorrow is a new day, Charlie. Sleep well and know that you are not alone tonight.

Love,

The Charlotte that you will become because you chose to live tonight.

Not a God of Immediate Gratification

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Lead me in your truth

and teach me, for you are

the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

Surrender and Devotion

Note: In the 7 months since I posted this blog, I’ve experienced many victories, had expectations shattered, dreams fulfilled, and attempted things I never dreamed I could do. Sometimes I grew impatient because God was not acting “fast enough” for my liking. Yet, He always made a way for His plan to come to fruition.

Now, I find myself at another crossroads as I contemplate the path forward. As I considered what to share this week, this blog brought me comfort and reminded me to be patient, wait for the Lord to move, and to be still and listen for His whisper.

Surrender and devotion dominate David’s writing. Throughout the Psalms, he lays his life before the Lord and says, “teach me.” He knows his limits and desires to learn from the Lord. He basically says, “Lord, I can’t do this without you. I need you to guide me and help me know the truth.” However, he does not demand an immediate response from God. Instead, he says, “I’ll wait for you all day.” He makes his plea, then waits.

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Moving too Fast

During the early years of healing from childhood trauma, I didn’t wait on God to teach me or lead me, and it almost destroyed me. I rushed to remember everything as quickly as I could and I set unrealistic goals for completing the healing process. The result- a year in a psychiatric day program. I could not work, nor was I emotionally available for my daughter. I pushed my mind beyond the brink and feared I would never return to normal life. Still, God did not abandon me. He waited for me, guided me and helped me recover my sanity.

Listen, Rest, and Learn

As you or a loved one progresses on their healing journey, remember to pace yourself. Listen to God’s whisper, listen to those that care for you, breathe, rest, and wait. Healing is a journey, not a destination.

Spring is Coming!

When I am in the midst of a difficult season in my life, I sometimes forget that spring is coming.  I can’t see any further than my circumstance.  Fortunately, God knows SPRING IS COMING!  I ask myself, why should I worry.

Note: I think this blog may become an annual post. Each spring I think about the joy John found in our yearly jaunts into the Texas Hill Country in search of Bluebonnets. Other than watching sports, our annual trek was his favorite activity. As our birthdays draw near, the lessons I learned from this post return to my thoughts. Spring is coming! No matter how difficult the winter, spring is coming!

“Did you get it?”,  John asked with eager anticipation in his voice. “Yes, here it is,” I replied, “Looks really good this year.”   “Should be, after the rain we had in January, he commented.

As he opened the pages of the magazine, he reminded me of a child who just opened the best Christmas present ever!  For the next several hours, John poured over page after page of pictures of wildflowers.  Nothing else mattered at that moment.  I sat on the couch smiling each time he made an excited, “Wow! We need to go here this year!”  Or “I know exactly where that is! I have a picture just like this one.”  By the end of the day, John had our route for our annual sojourn through the Texas Hill Country mapped out.

Every year we made the trip.  It did not matter to John if we saw one bluebonnet or thousands.  What mattered was the journey and ultimately seeing the result of God’s workmanship throughout the winter.  The bluebonnets peeked out from the grassy field’s along the Texas highways like tiny beacons of light that illuminated the drab, colorless landscape of winter.  Each blossom represented victory over the harshness of winter.  Each blossom represented a new life and a new beginning.

Before each flower pushes through the earth to show off its beauty, it must endure the winter.

I often wondered how these seemingly fragile plants bloom year after year.  What miraculous events occur that result in such beauty?   So, like any good 21st-century researcher, I Googled, “How to plant bluebonnets in Texas.”

From this search I learned:

  1. Bluebonnets need full sunlight to for best growth.
  2. Bluebonnets can be planted from September 1 through December 15, but for the best growth no later than mid-November.
  3. Bluebonnets produce large, hard-coated seeds that take time to soften, but also protect them from potentially destructive forces of nature (winter) until they are ready to form deep roots and push through the ground.
  4. Do not soak or prick the seeds.  Although doing so may improve the first year’s growth, it may also damage the seed.
  5. A significant amount of rain is needed during the winter months to soften the seeds enough to germinate.
  6. When scattering the seeds, seed to soil contact is essential. (the grass and weeds need to be cut)
  7. Seeds need to be covered by about 1/4 inch of soil to protect them from being eaten by birds or “burning” up in the sunlight.

In short,  to endure the winter, bluebonnets need to be planted in the right season, need sunlight, need contact and covering from the soil, need enough rain to soften their hard shell and need to grow at their own pace without being picked or rushed.  As I read this, I was reminded that God works the same miracle with us every time we go through a severe (winter) season in our life.

God has a perfect plan to help us endure the winter.

Spring always follows winter.  New life happens in every part of God’s creation in the spring.  Spring can be one of the most beautiful times of the year!  However, when I am in the midst of a difficult season in my life, I sometimes forget that spring is coming.  I can’t see any further than my circumstance.  Fortunately, God knows SPRING IS COMING!  I ask myself, why should I worry.

If God takes care of bluebonnets surely He will give me what I need to endure the winter:

  1. His Son, in all his glory shining down on me. John 3:16
  2. He knows exactly how long I need to endure the winter before spring arrives Isaiah 40:31
  3. He covers me with his wings until I can safely stand and flourish. Psalm 91

Although He provides all this, my part is:

  1. Not try to endure the winter without relying on Him. Psalm 78:7
  2. Not allow others to push me, shame me or blame me for being in the circumstance. Romans 8:31, 39
  3. To remain connected to God by abiding in Him. John 15:7
  4. Allowing Him to stand over me when I am weak. Philippians 4:13

No matter how cold or dark the winters of your life seem, remember SPRING IS COMING!  God provides all that you need to endure the winter.  God’s perfect plan will get you to spring.

How has God helped you endure a winter season in your life?

Covid-19 Hidden Impact for Trauma Survivors/ Tips to Cope

Updated Repost: I wrote this in the middle of lockdown 2020, not realizing that we would still be managing the COVID Pandemic in January 2022. While we are no long in lockdown, the world remains on edge. Reviewing this post brought me comfort today. I hope you find strength in the thoughts I presented nearly 2 years ago. The message remains the same. I still have a choice how I respond to the triggers from the past.

Updated Repost: I wrote this in the middle of lockdown 2020, not realizing that we would still be managing the COVID Pandemic in January 2022. While we are no long in lockdown, the world remains on edge. Reviewing this post brought me comfort today. I hope you find strength in the thoughts I presented nearly 2 years ago. The message remains the same. I still have a choice how I respond to the triggers from the past.

The Covid-19 virus has upended everyone over the past few weeks. While the new normal creates havoc for nearly everyone, I’ve realized a hidden impact for trauma survivors. With each new restriction comes less control over my life, which triggers old fears and sometimes anger. At first, I dismissed these thoughts as silly considering the restrictions haven’t significantly changed my lifestyle. Yesterday I realized why anxiety and anger resurfaced. I feel the same loss of control I felt as a child when my family members abused me, but I also realized I am not a powerless little girl anymore. I am a strong, healthy woman who knows the truth about my identity.

I can choose how I respond to the triggers from the past.

Several years ago, my late husband, John, told me a story that illustrates one way to manage the emotional turmoil the current circumstances create. The town he grew up in has a city park with an old playground. The playground includes one of those old merry-go-rounds which consists of a circular platform with bars for standing. The riders push off the ground to increase the rotation speed of the merry-go-round. Sometimes one person stands beside the equipment to push it to maximum speed. Running on the platform will also increase the speed.

Keep Your Eyes on the Tree

One day, John and two friends (all of them in their 20s) decided to see how fast they could go and still stand up. So the contest began. Each attempt ended with falls, bumps, and bruises. They ran fast, but at some point looked down at their feet. When they did, they fell. After many attempts, John’s friend suggested they focus on the tree that stood next to the merry-go-round. When they kept their eyes on the tree, they did not fall. The speed increased far beyond what they thought possible. Then they looked down, and chaos ensued. Years later, while on a mission trip to Haiti and felt overwhelmed by the darkness that surrounded him. As he prayed for peace, the events at the park came to mind. He heard a whisper, “Just keep your eye on the tree.” He had the sense that the tree represented Jesus Christ, who hung on a tree for us.

As you struggle with old tapes in these uncertain times, remember to keep your eyes on the source of comfort. You are not a helpless child living in a chaotic and abusive world. You are a survivor. You are loved by the one who died for you. Keeping my eyes on Him when anxiety and fear threaten my peace, helps ground me in the present. For me that means turning off cable news, listening to music that soothes, reading scripture and stopping the thoughts that creep into my head before they take root. None of these things change what is going on in the world, but they change how I navigate them.

Changing How You Cope

As a survivor, you have learned ways to manage triggers, but some of those may not be available now. It’s hard to change our way of coping, but not impossible. Draw a picture, write a poem (even if you don’t think you can), stay connected via texting and phone calls. Find an online church service. Reach out and let someone know this is a hard time for you. Above all, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because this triggers emotions you haven’t felt in years or months. Change your focus. Keep your eyes on the tree. When you look down and fall, get back up and try again.

We can support each other through this season: Share your coping strategies, your struggles and get support in the comments.

A New Thing-New Beginnings

We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

As we begin a new year, Isaiah reminds us to keep our eyes forward. While I don’t think he intends for us to forget the lessons from the past, his prophetic words stress the importance of seeing God at work even in desolate times. 

Our vision gets clouded when we focus on missed opportunities, failures, or hardships from years gone by which may cause us to miss the wonder that awaits us in the new year. We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Reflection

Where do you see God working in your life?

Suggested Resources

You Don’t Have to Heal Alone!

Here are just a few places you can get help. Please remember you do not have to do this alone. There are people, groups, and other resources that can help you heal.

Reporting Child Abuse:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/how- to-report-child-abuse-and-neglect/

Symptoms of Child Abuse:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child- abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

Resources for Healing

Books:

A., Van Der Kolk Bessel. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

  • Explains body memories. One of the most troubling parts of my healing was understanding how my body remembered things my brain did not. This book provides answers to that question.

Bass, Ellen, and Laura Davis. (2008). The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper.

  • The first edition of this book was a vital part of my early work as I navigated the onslaught of memories. It provides concrete tools to sort through the confusion of processing the lifelong impact of abuse.

Websites/Organizations

Relate: In the fall of 2016, I transferred the intellectual property of Living as Conquerors to Cheryl and Eleanora Luke. The updated the name to Relate and are currently upgrading all the material to bring it into the twenty-first century. While I don’t discuss the full scope of the ministry in my memoir, the concepts and tools found in Relate transformed my life. It is much more than a Bible Study. It is a way of life. I continue to use most of the tools found in Relate. For more in- formation  and current group offering visit: https://www.cherylluke.com/campaign-1

Celebrate Recovery: Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. Celebrate Recovery is a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life. https://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Helping Survivors: helpingsurvivors.org Their mission is to assist anyone who has been victimized by sexual assault or abuse. The website is a compilation of information around different instances of sexual violence. They offer resources to assist survivors and their families, and we will continuously be adding more. Survivors can also reach out to them if they have any questions at all or are looking for advice.

Resources for Information:

Looking Back: The Journal of a Mental Hospital User in the 1960s: The Psychologist.

Nelson, Barbara J. Making an Issue of Child Abuse. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000.

Myers, John E. B. The History of Child Protection in America. Sacramento, CA: University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2010.

Hope Today-Finding God in the Darkness

I am grateful for the opportunity to share moments when God showed up to give me hope in the darkest moments of my childhood as well as the importance of both counseling and faith in my healing process.

Today I had the privilege of being the guest on Cornerstone Television Network’s program, Hope Today. I must admit I was more nervous about the interview than normal because it was a live broadcast. However, the hosts immediately put me at ease. Their approach to the interview allowed me to share aspects of my journey that I’ve not shared on previous programs.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share moments when God showed up to give me hope in the darkest moments of my childhood as well as the importance of both counseling and faith in my healing process.

I wanted to share the interview on my website so others may better understand the dynamics of healing from childhood trauma.

Open the Eyes of my Heart

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

Ephesians 1:18  ESV

At the heart of the matter

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.  It is the element that causes us to have internal conversations when faced with moral decisions.  Lewis also refers to the middle element as “emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiment.”[2] 

It’s my choice

Choice is a key element in God’s interaction with us.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[3] Without an open and active heart, we risk enduring unbridled emotions that lead to chaotic choices or the cold and calculated choices of pure reason. When the eyes of our heart are open, we view our circumstances from a balanced perspective that intersects reason and passion and allows us to hear and see the truth God has for us, which allows us to make better choices.

[1]C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1974), 25.

[2] Ibid.,25.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.

Never too Old-The Adventure of Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

I’ve always loved to play

Playing games and using my imagination kept me entertained for hours as a child. My brother and I role played nearly every afternoon in our backyard where the apple tree became a fort or the mast of a pirate ship and the grape arbor was transformed into a villain’s hideout. The time spent in our imaginary worlds provided an escape from the pain of our home. As the years passed, our adventures together stopped and I was left to play alone. Even in my solitude, play gave me joy and brightened the darkness of my existence.

As a young adult, I played in the snow with my fellow college students and experienced the magic of Fox and Hound as we permanently engraved a circle in the grass outside one of the academic buildings. Our snow packed design remained long after the snow melted. We made snowmen and had snowball fights throughout the winter. We played board games and cards into the early morning hours.

When video games arrived, my family bought nearly every Atari game that came out. I wasn’t very good at them, but I loved playing. However, my interest waned as life became complicated. We sold the consoles and all the games and I put my love of playing on pause. Board games became a source of anger and conflict between me and Marty, my first husband. So I soon lost interest in most forms of play. I actually saw play as a waste of time.

Then I had grandchildren. Angel and Isaac loved playing games especially when Wii, Xbox, and Playstation came out. John and I bought a Wii console and played together often, but the fun really began when the grandkids visited. Finally, there was an activity we could all enjoy. My love of playing was reignited and continued to grow as the years passed.

Hello Minecraft

I’ve posted an entire blog on my interest in Minecraft, but I want to tell you how much the game brought back the joy of play to my heart. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the best way to describe it is as virtual Legos with creatures that try to blow you up (in Survival Mode.) In Creative Mode (where I tend to stay) you have all the supplies you need and none of the creatures bother you. You can build worlds to your hearts content. You can also talk to other gamers if you share a server, so it’s a form of community. I resisted playing for a long time, but I love it now. It provides the escape I need to refresh my mind while being creative. I don’t know how many other grandmas play, but discovering Minecraft was like reawaking the child who played hero and villain so many years ago.

The Cool Kids

A couple of years ago the sitcom, “The Cool Kids,” was set in a retirement community and followed the adventures the residents. The show was funny because it touched on issues I experience daily. While I don’t consider myself one of the cool kids, I do live in a retirement community with some pretty cool folks. One of things I’ve enjoyed most is the times we play. We laugh, play Bingo, share stories, and do crafts together. Playing in a community brings us all joy and takes us away from the aches and pain of growing old. I love my community and the current manager is kind and caring.

Never too Old to Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

Related Posts

Never Too Old-The Adventure of Learning

When I retired in 2015, I didn’t know what to do with my time. I worked full time for most of my adult life and the lack of a regular schedule did not set well with me. As the months passed, my love of learning prompted me to explore learning opportunities. I looked at a few online opportunities, but nothing fit what I wanted to explore. Then my daughter shared her experience with the Masters of Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. She loved the program and encouraged me to apply. I did and was accepted into the program.

Growing Old is an Adventure

A few months ago I created a Twitch Channel so I could livestream my book launch to the platform. For those who don’t know, Twitch is a platform where gamers, podcasts, and others can livestream. I chose Twitch solely because my daughter livestreams Minecraft on the platform and she agreed to host the book launch. Setting up the channel wasn’t complicated, but involved creating a title. I decided to name my channel “Never too Old,” primarily because, at age 68, I enjoy playing Minecraft. However, today I realized I have experienced many new things and learned several new skills over the past few years. So, I thought I would share my thoughts on the adventure of growing old.

The Adventure of Learning

When I retired in 2015, I didn’t know what to do with my time. I worked full time for most of my adult life and the lack of a regular schedule did not set well with me. As the months passed, my love of learning prompted me to explore learning opportunities. I looked at a few online opportunities, but nothing fit what I wanted to explore. Then my daughter shared her experience with the Masters of Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. She loved the program and encouraged me to apply. I did and was accepted into the program.

The program was the catalyst for starting my memoir. During the final year of the program, I began sharing parts of my story in the class discussion boards. Opportunities to share appeared in the form of questions related to life experiences, love, miracles and the problem of evil. Each time I shared, the class response was supportive and encouraging. I went “public” by sharing a video about my near death experience on Mike Licona’s YouTube Channel in November 2017, which motivated me to create this website and begin sharing more. The video has over 230K views the last time I checked. The success and positive response to the video motivated me to re-visit the idea of writing a book about my life.

However, the influence of my professors and fellow students didn’t end with the video. Over the next two years, I wrote essays, sonnets, and blogs related to child abuse. In my final semester began writing my memoir as my capstone project. Holly Ordway, the instructor for the course, encouraged me to write my story as a memoir, rather than follow my plan to write a self-help book. The thought terrified me, but I changed the focus and found the process encouraging and healing.

The adventure of learning began as a way to fill my days but resulted in a published memoir. I realized you’re never too old to begin something new.

Next Time…The Adventure of Play

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